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Eco-friendly cars: “PROS” and “CONS”

Nowadays subjects such as environmental protection, ecology, air pollution, carbon emissions and eco-friendly actions are very common. We are surrounded by subjects as we mentioned before in the media and on the street. The auto industry is not an exception and the theme of eco-friendly cars is up-to-date.


What are eco-friendly cars?

Well, in order to be environmentally friendly a car should follow certain directions and requirements. First of all, it should have lower or zero carbon emissions. Then it should be built as much as possible from ecological materials. The fuels that these types of cars are using should be alternative fuels. Another aspect has as target the reducing of oil imports and in this way to reduce the green house gas emissions.

Those cars that are eco-friendly include: electric cars, hybrid electric vehicles, flexible-fuel vehicles, compressed-air vehicles and hydrogen vehicles.


“PROS” eco-friendly cars

Every change that happens around the world receives critics and appreciations. The subject of eco-friendly cars is not an exception. There are plenty of opinions and supporters of these environmentally friendly vehicles. The advantages of eco-friendly cars that are supported by these PROs include the reducing of carbon emissions, reducing the air pollution into the cities, reducing oil imports and fossil fuel use, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions and all these benefits may be seen in our health. Those persons that are supporting the idea of eco-friendly cars are trying to accelerate the process of introducing these kinds of vehicles into our lives. There are also groups that are against eco-friendly cars because for sure that you may find also some minuses of these cars.


“CONS” eco-friendly cars

Always when you have a “PRO” group, you will have a “CON” group. It is very human to be like that. As for the eco-friendly cars, those that are part of the “CON’ group found several reasons to be against this new type of cars that are starting to be very present on the streets around the world. These reasons include: the negative impact of manufacturing the components of these cars, short lives of the eco-friendly cars, and the necessity of energy stations for non-fuel cars and also the final disposal of these cars. Those that are part of the “CON” group are saying that overall the energy that is used to manufacture eco-friendly cars and all their components involve more energy consumption than conventional cars. And due to this, in the long term the pollution will be higher than now. The high price of these eco-friendly cars is another element that is supported by those from the “CON” group.


Auto industry had important contributions into human lives. But there are also some impacts on the environment such as air pollution and energy consumption during manufacturing the components of the cars. Eco-friendly cars are the proposal of the auto industry to solve part of these impacts. But even these environmentally friendly vehicles raise certain challenges and have impacts on the environment. But as long as we intend to move easily and facilitate our mobility, we have to be aware that there will always be impacts that will affect the environment, more or less.

Volkswagen Scandal And Its Consequences In The Auto Industry

All over the world in developed countries are adopted strategies and rules regarding reducing air pollution. One of the directions in these approaches is to reduce the air pollution by reducing the gas emission from cars use, especially into the cities.


Volkswagen scandal

Recently a scandal started in the auto industry. This scandal has as target one of the largest auto vehicles producers, naming here Volkswagen or shortly VW. The scandal was published on 18th of September 2015 in the media all over the world and it started in the United States. On that day, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has noticed that VW has violated the Clean Air Act.


The subject of this infringement was the turbocharged direct injection diesel engines of VW cars. The agency that is dealing with environmental protection in the United States had discovered that VW Group had used a control device for emissions, but only during the tests of their cars into the laboratory. This device that was supposed to control cars emissions during the tests should satisfy the U.S. standards regarding cars emission. But the United States Environmental Protection Agency found that in fact VW cars’ emissions were 40 times higher than the U.S. standards. It was discovered that more than 1 million of cars that were produced by the VW Group had installed this device. In the United States, there were also more than 500,000 cars using such a device to control the emissions.


Volkswagen Group reply

In such a huge scandal, the reply of those that are representing the VW Group had come quite quickly. In August 2015, before the scandal to start, were the first attempts to admit that there were several inconsistencies in emissions regulatory. At the beginning they were trying to put the responsibility to the technological devices, but at the end they had to admit their mistake. VW Group had started many internal investigations in order to find those that were guilty for this scandal.


Volkswagen Group started to transmit wave of ads into the media, trying to reduce as much as possible the negative effects of the scandal. They were very active in the media, announcing the number of cars that were involved in this scandal and the costs that were generated to solve the software problems. Volkswagen Group started to recall a huge number of cars into their factories, in order to be repaired.


Volkswagen scandal consequences

The first consequences were on the car market, where VW started to lose terrain in front of other large auto producers. Besides of that, VW Group had to spend more than 7 billion dollars just to solve the software on those cars that were the subject of the scandal. On the other hand, VW Group had to face many legal actions started by individual persons or even by states such as Belgium, Australia or the United States. The emission control scandal costs VW Group more than 17 billion U.S. dollars.


On long term, the VW scandal will affect the income and cars selling for this large producer of auto vehicles. There were also implications in environmental pollution or possible health consequences. And maybe VW scandal has not released its last episode.

A New Direction In Automative Domain: Electric Cars

Automative industry is one of the most up to date industries in the world. This is a requirement if you want to be in the top selling in the auto industry. Every year comes with new changes in the automative industry and also with new challenges that automative domain should face it.


Electric cars and the environment

Nowadays the discussion about air pollution, global warming and climate changes is very current. The number of cars is increasing every hour around the globe and as a consequence the gas emission is also increasing into the atmosphere. The ecologists are trying to reduce the number of cars due to their pollution. In order to counteract the ecologists and those that are for reducing the number of cars, those that are working in the automative domain have proposed another direction – electric cars.


Electric cars are built to use electric energy and due to this electric cars are not polluting the air, especially into the cities where car densities are higher. Electric cars are environmentally friendly and this new generation of cars had started to be seen on the streets in several countries. The most important contributions in introducing electric cars are the United States. Other countries that are producing and trying to introduce on the streets electric cars include Germany, France, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Are electric cars environmentally friendly?

Every new development in the auto industry is criticized by people, specialists, ecologists, scientists or buyers. But we have to ask if electric cars are really eco-friendly? Or they have their limitation regarding this aspect?


There is discussion about the materials that are used to build an electric car and the processes that are conducting to obtain these materials. Because an electric car is based on a battery that should be charged, a battery that is heavy, the idea of the automative producers was to reduce the weight from other components. Due to this, for an electric car are used lightweight materials such as aluminium, carbon-fiber, rare metals, nickel, cooper and lithium. In order to manufacture electric car’s components that are made from these light materials, the manufacturers are using a lot of energy. There are already scientific studies which are indicating that producing components for electric car could be more polluting than the use of the automobile.


There is another discussion regarding who to obtain the electric power that should be used for charging electric cars. Because there are voices that are saying that when the producers are obtaining energy for electric cars, they are polluting the atmosphere during the process of getting energy, especially if they are using fossil fuels. There will always be a limitation in every new project developed by those that are dealing with the auto industry. But for sure the electric cars are friendlier with the environment than fossil fuel based cars. The carbon footprint is lower if we analyze the overall life cycle for an electric car.


There are many countries around the world where cars are the most important contributors to air pollution. Maybe electric cars will contribute to reduce the pollution of the air that we are breathing. This is our hope for the future of the automative domain.

Three Plant-Based Fibers with the Potential to Transform the Green Auto Industry

While the green auto industry has primarily been focused on reducing air pollution via emissions, the process of building a car (and disposing of one) is also very difficult and intensive on the environment. Glass, plastics, steel, rubber, and paint, are difficult to produce and can have lasting effects when left to rot in a junkyard following a car’s demise.

Leading minds in the scientific and engineering realms have been devoting time and efforts into solving this issue. As a result, tests have been conducted with natural substances in an attempt to find more eco-friendly methods of building and producing green vehicles.

While these developments are still in their early stages of infancy, scientists and engineers are reportedly touting the following three natural substances as having the potential to transform the green auto industry forever.


  1. Wood-Based Carbon Fibers

Just recently, a team of Swedish researchers created a toy-sized prototype of a vehicle whose roof and battery is completely composed of wood-based carbon fiber

The important element in this fiber is called lignin, and is very prominent around the world. It is actually present in the cells of almost all land-dwelling plants, and is the second most prominent polymer following cellulose.

Researchers hope that “eventually carbon fiber bodywork and batteries could be combined to simultaneously manage mechanical loads and store mechanical energy”.


  1. Fruit Fibers

During the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), a team presented new types of automotive plastics that are “stronger, lighter, and more eco-friendly” than the plastics currently in use.

The group of researchers, led by Alcides Leão of Sao Paulo State University, used fibers from fruits (such as pineapples and bananas) to create these substances.

While the fruits themselves are delicate, the “nano-cellulose” fibers that compose them are very strong.  In fact, these fibers have been deemed comparable in strength to Kevlar (a material used in the production of bullet-proof vests and other armor).

Unlike Kevlar however, these fibers are completely renewable. Additionally, lessening the weight of the materials used in a car’s production will automatically increase the vehicle’s fuel efficiency as it needs less power to move its size.

In addition to weight and strength benefits, this fruit fiber plastic has additional “mechanical advantages” including a greater resistance to heat, gas, water, and oxygen damage. Leão believes that components such as “dashboards, bumpers, [and] side-panels” built from these fibers will become the norm.


  1. Hemp and Elephant Grass

A few years back, the Canadian-designed Kestrel car was advertised as the world’s most eco-friendly car. While the car was vastly publicized as being produced with hemp and being able to reach speeds of 180 mph, it does not seem to have been ever completed or sold.

Since the Kestrel car’s temporary fame, Alan Crosky (of the University of New South Whales in Australia) has been one of the researchers devoted to moving hemp and other hemp-like substances (such as elephant grass) into the sphere of green auto production.  Crosky elaborates that “hemp fibers have higher strength to weight ratios than steel and can also be considerably cheaper to manufacture”.

While the use of hemp is less popular in the United States, German companies (such as Mercedes, BMW and Audi Volkswagen) have more than tripled their use of natural fibers in car production, since the fibers’ introduction to jute-based door panels in the Mercedes E class (circa 1999).

Five Big Reasons to be Worried about Auto Emissions

  1. Automobile Production is Environmentally Intensive

Automobiles are tough on the environment in many ways.

  • Firstly, just building a car requires many environmentally-intensive materials, such as glass, plastics, steel, rubber, etc.
  • Many of the car’s components can remain in the environment long after the car has been out of use (things such as plastics and battery acid, for example). Luckily about ¾ of modern cars can be recycled which slightly minimizes this effect.
  • Automobile emissions, however, currently form 80-90% of a car’s negative impact on the environment,
  1. More Driving Than Ever Before

Automobile emissions are becoming a large priority to many nations’ leaders.  With an average increase of 156.4 billion vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in only 41 years, it’s easy to see how emissions are becoming more of a hazard than ever before.

In fact, President Obama has recently announced a plan to increase the price of gas by approximately 30% in an attempt to cut back on auto emissions, which are also the source of 1/3 of American air pollution.


  1. Emissions Contain Many Dangerous Components

Automobile emissions contain several different types of gasses and particles which can have negative consequences on the environment. Most dangerously, these emissions include:

  • Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, global warming, as well as the creation of ozone and F-Gasses
  • Hydrocarbons, which combine with other substances to form smog
  • Nitrogen and sulfur oxides, the main components of acid rain. They are also known to cause respiratory illnesses in humans and animals
  • Particulate matter, tiny pieces of solids (such as metal or soot) which are created when fuel is not completely combusted. This matter can get into surrounding soil and water, which can then affect animals in many devastating ways (including reproductively, immunologically, and neurologically).

This picture taken on January 9, 2015 shows cars being assembled in a workshop of an automobile factory in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning province. China's auto sales exceeded 23 million vehicles last year, an industry group said on January 12, but annual growth halved from 2013 as a weaker economy took its toll on the world's biggest car market. CHINA OUT     AFP PHOTO        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

  1. Ground-Level Release of Emissions

As mentioned, automobile emissions are a large problem in regards to air pollution.

Because they are released in proximity to people at ground-level, they are considered an “even more immediate” health concern than industrial smoke stacks, which pump their emissions high into the sky.

It should also be noted that 85% of vehicle emissions are from personal automobiles, and NOT public transportation or industrial vehicles (as reported in 2009).

  1. No One is Immune

Many studies on emissions have been conducted. These show that, in the grand scheme of automobile emissions, everyone is a victim. For example,

  • In their 2005 study, Marshall and Behrentz reported that bus passengers (school and public) received just as much exposure to harmful emissions as the drivers. This means drivers and passengers are equally at risk.
  • In a 2004 study (by Burr and colleagues) that examined children who did not ride busses, daycares or home can also be high-emission areas, depending on the surrounding traffic.
  • While children are thought to be more vulnerable to emissions due to their “higher breathing rates” and “developing lungs and immune systems”, adults are definitely not immune.
  • It is likely that all automobile emissions are carcinogenic. In a study conducted by Soll-Johanning and colleagues in 1998, it was found that individuals exposed to air pollution increased their chances of developing cancer by 25%. In this particular study, the exposed men were found to be at a 60% increase for cancer development, while the women suffered a startling 160%.

This data clearly shows that auto emissions should be a concern for everyone.

Four Things That Make Tesla Motors Unique

  1. Elon Musk

Elon Musk, Tesla Motors’ South African CEO, is well known and respected in the entrepreneurial world. Aside from being a successful business man, he is also praised for genuinely wanting to make the world a better place. His two main goals include reducing global warming through eco-friendly techniques (such as Tesla’s electric vehicles), as well as improving space travel techniques (via his company SpaceX).

A lesser known fact: Musk also founded PayPal, which he acquired when his company X.com merged with Confinity.


  1. Sports Car Luxury

Tesla’s electric vehicles are one of the first to successfully combine eco-friendly electric engines with sports car luxuries:

  • The Tesla Roadster was the very first electric sports car
  • In addition to this, it was also the very first electric car to use lithium-ion batteries
  • Tesla Motors followed its release with the Model S, described as a “luxury lift-back”
  • A Model X crossover luxury sedan was most recently released by the company

In addition to making electric vehicles sleek and appealing, Tesla is constantly coming up with innovative features that make their vehicles truly one-of-a-kind.  A few examples include:

  • The capacity to update the vehicle’s software wirelessly (no trips to a shop or auto dealer)
  • Very impressive acceleration speeds with an “insane” driving mode, and a newly added “ludicrous’ mode that can go from 0-60 mph in only 2.8 seconds
  • A 253 mile range
  • Self-parking programming
  • A “summoner”, which Musk hopes customers will eventually be able to use “to call their cars from anywhere in the country [while the car will] sync with the customer’s calendar to know when to arrive.


  1. Supercharge Stations

A lack of charging stations or a slow charging time can be a turn off to many vehicle owners.  In order to combat this problem, Tesla Motors has been steadily increasing their number of charging stations throughout 2015.

These are not just any charging stations, either. These “superchargers” are capable of charging your battery to midpoint in only twenty minutes. There are approximately 3500 Supercharger stations currently placed along the most travelled roadways in the United States.

  1. Sell Directly To Consumer

Tesla Motors has a unique method of selling that involves selling directly to consumers as opposed to using dealerships as middle-men.  Unfortunately, this is against the law in many American states, including:

  • West Virginia
  • New Jersey
  • Texas

These regulations were allegedly set in place to promote “intrabrand” competition, where consumers would not only be given a choice of a manufacturer, but also a choice between local dealerships. For example, consumers would not only be choosing between Ford and Volkswagen, but between all local Ford dealers.

Todd Maron, Tesla’s head lawyer, has claimed there are many reasons that this system would not work for selling Tesla automobiles. Supported by the FCC, these reasons include:

  • Tesla automobiles are unique and their support cannot be outsourced to third parties
  • Customer education on the product is extensive and would not be able to be done successfully at the dealership level
  • Dealerships charge a higher cost on the product to make a profit, and, because these regulations differ per state, customers are more likely to avoid added costs by simply buying out of state
  • Dealerships get most of their business through maintenance services; Tesla’s cars are unique and don’t require these types of things. Maron elaborates “If a car doesn’t use oil, customers won’t come in for regular oil changes”.

Tesla Motors has recently applied for a dealership license in the State of Michigan. At this time, there have been no further updates on the matter.

The Top 5 Best-Selling Electric Cars of 2015

  1. VW e-Golf

VW e-Golf

The Volkswagen e-Golf ranked the fifth most popular electric car in the United States, selling a total of 4200 units in 2015.  This four-door hatchback is the first electric vehicle that Volkswagen has sold in the US market. Advertising a range of 83 miles per charge, the e-Golf utilizes Panasonic air-cooled lithium-ion batteries and an electric motor to run.

If you live in one of the 10 ZEV states (California, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island or Vermont), rapid charging stations are available at select VW dealerships. These stations can restore the e-Golf’s batteries to 80% in about a half an hour.  Volkswagen additionally offers a Bosch rapid-charging home unit for the price of 500$.

  1. Fiat 500e

It is reported that the US is currently home to more Italian cars than at any other point in history. This seems to ring true as the Italian Fiat 500e ranks as the fourth most sold car in the US during 2015.  Beating the VW e-Golf by a few thousand, the distinctive Fiat 500e sold over 6000 units total.

This compact automobile advertises a range of “more than 100 miles” (as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency), and is described as “[evoking] high style rather than polarizing design”.

Additionally, there up at $14,000 of credit and rebates that become available to you upon the purchase of this car.

BMW i3

  1. BMW i3

The BMW i3 was 2015’s third best-selling electric vehicle in the United States, selling approximately 11,000 units. The i3 was the first electric vehicle released by BMW, as well as the first mass-produced vehicle to utilize carbon-fiber reinforced polymer. The higher strength-weight ratio of these polymers means a higher range/mileage for the vehicle.

While the i3 is BMW’s first electric product, reviewers have noted that it “remains every inch a bona fide BMW” by not sacrificing the low centre of gravity and advanced rear-wheel-drive handling that has been associated with the brand.

Nissan LEAF

  1. Nissan LEAF

The Nissan LEAF (whose acronym stands for Leading Environmentally-Friendly Affordable Family car) was the second most popular electric car amongst Americans in 2015, selling over 17,000 units.

This five-door hatchback was originally introduced in America and Japan in 2010, however by December 2015 (a mere five years later), it had grown to become “the world’s all –time best selling highway-capable all-electric car”.

The Nissan LEAF has won many awards, including a Green Car Vision Award, the European Car of the Year, World Car of the Year, and Car of the Year Japan.

Plans for 2017 LEAF include increasing its range, with it being reported that “[the new model] would have a range of 120 miles, possibly as high as 150 miles”.


  1. Tesla Model S

Selling a total of more than 25,000 American units, the Tesla Model S electric car blew its 2015 competitors out of the water. Toting the highest American safety rating possible, as well as a range of 89 miles per its gasoline equivalent, Tesla electric vehicles have been highly praised within the industry.

The Model S (and Tesla Motors themselves) has received numerous awards, including a Most Improved Loyalty to Make award, and a Most Improved Conquest Percentage award (both from the 2015 IHS Automotive Loyalty Awards).

Most recently the mid-range Model S vehicles have been discontinued, due to the fact that “the recently introduced 90-kWh battery pack offers unprecedented range and value that has been well received by [their] customers.”

Three Reasons Why China Is Becoming the Leading Market for Electric Vehicles

  1. Air Quality in China Requires Electric Vehicles

China is currently suffering from very high levels of air pollution stemming from their coal-burning companies and vehicle usage. During the 2015 Holidays, Beijing experienced a thick grey smog of particulates that covered the entire city. A few consequences of this incident included:

  • The cancellation of over 200 flights because of “limited visibility”
  • A warning to elders and children to avoid outside activities
  • A temporary limit to the number of drivers on the road (determined by license plates)

Government Subsidies and Incentives for Buyers

These events have been recurring, and approximately 300 Chinese areas fail to meet the Chinese air quality standards (set at 35 micrograms). This is actually more unfortunate than it seems, as the World Health Organization uses a standard of only 10 micrograms.

Automobile expert Jean-Francois Belorgey, has been quoted as saying that “pollution levels mean the government has no other choice “than to encourage the development of new energy vehicles”.

  1. Government Subsidies and Incentives for Buyers


In an attempt to grow the Chinese electric vehicle market (and reduce air pollution levels), the Chinese government has created incentive subsidies for buyers.  In order to reach its goal of having 5 million green vehicles on the streets by 2020, the Chinese government has offered green vehicle buyers:

  • Subsidies up to 55,000 yuan (approximately $8,400 USD) for buyers of low or zero emission automobile; additionally, these subsidies can be matched by “local authorities” which doubles the savings
  • Removal of restrictions that are imposed on drivers during times of heavy smog (like the 2015 holidays)
  • Exemption from city-specific lotteries put in place to limit the total number of vehicles on the road

The Chinese government has stated that it will attempt to “phase out” the subsidies slowly leading up to 2020 as to ensure that “the sector does not become dependent on handouts”.


  1. Focus on Chinese Manufacturing

There is a catch to the Chinese government’s subsidies and incentives. They only apply to domestically-made cars, not foreign imports.  As a result, many Chinese automobile producers are doing very well in the market. Many foreign companies are also planning to build Chinese branches to cash in on the Chinese demand for green vehicles.

Examples of both include:

  • Chinese auto company BYD (backed by Warren Buffett), who are the self-proclaimed largest electric vehicle maker in the world
  • Chinese company Geely (owners of Volvo), who plan to convert 90% of their sales to hybrid and electric vehicles by 2020
  • France’s Renault car company, who recently opened a Chinese branch and has said that they “see China as an ideal test ground for low-cost electric vehicles”
  • General Motors, who plans to make its hybrid Cadillac CT6 in China and will later be exporting it to the United States

Due to these three factors, Chinese electric car sales increased by nearly 500% from January to October 2015. As a result, it has been reported that these numbers now put China in a position to “overtake the United States as the largest market for electric cars.”

What Lower Gas Prices Mean for the Green Auto Industry

For the past year or so the Saudi Arabian company OPEC has been increasing the supply of oil, while the demand for it has remained constant.  As any amateur economist can tell you, this means that we have been experiencing extraordinarily low gas prices as a result.

These low prices can lead to other consequences, however.


  1. Government Regulation and Exploiting of Loop Holes

With lower gas prices and an increased use of fossil fuels, generally comes some form of government regulation.

When this occurs, loop holes are often found and exploited by the automobile industry

. Here are a few examples:

  • In the early 1980s, the car industry seemed to be steadily transforming, following imposed government regulations that aimed to double the fuel efficiency of automobiles to 27.5 miles per gallon. This seemed to have had temporary success until it was unfortunately discovered that many automobile makers were relying on a loophole. The manufacturers were selling “light trucks”, which still used an average of 19.5 miles per gallon, and made up 1/5 of new vehicle sales of that time. Eventually, urged by Ford and General Motors lobbyists, the government standards were lowered.
  • This situation seems to parallel our own, with the many reported automobile scandals of the past year. The Volkswagen emission scandal was prominent in the media with the German company admitting to cheating American tests. The Volkswagen diesel engines had been equipped with software that could detect when the engine was being tested. The software would then alter the performance of the engine to meet industry standards while the test was being performed.

If gas prices continue to rise and the interest in fuel efficiency continues to drop, it is likely the government will create some type of additional regulation measures. If this occurs, the automobile industry will no doubt follow suit, looking for loopholes in the name of sales.


  1. Interest in Fuel-Efficiency Drops

The public’s interest in fuel-efficiency and electric cars is highly based on financial factors. While there are green activists, many individuals have been turning towards hybrids and smaller cars strictly for the savings.

  • Despite government regulations and aims to meet international standards, when there are lowered gas prices, the interest in fuel-efficiency drops. Forbes reports that the ultra-low gasoline prices even cause people who own electric and hybrid cards to “defect to sport utility vehicles and other gas-powered models”.
  • This was calculated statistically and an increase in electric (and drop in pickup) sales during times of high gas prices can clearly be observed, while the opposite is true in times of low gas prices.
  • Another factor that decreases interest in fuel efficiency is a lack of convenience. Charging stations for electric vehicles are much sparser than their gas station counterparts. The charging process also requires more time.

In an attempt to fight the convenience issue, BMW & Nissan have partnered up to build 120 “fast charging” stations in 19 states with the goal of increasing electric and hybrid popularity in these areas.

President Obama has additionally proposed a controversial 10$ tax per barrel of crude oil (which amounts to 33% of the total barrel cost). If this legislation passes, gas prices will likely rise again.

The Facts behind the Volkswagen Diesel Dupe

What Happened?

Researchers from the West Virginia University’s Council on Clean Transportation were doing tests with Volkswagen vehicles. For some unknown reason, the vehicles were releasing more emissions when running on the road than when they were being tested in the lab.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ultimately discovered that Volkswagen diesel cars had been programmed with an engine “defeat device”. This software was designed to detect when the vehicle’s emissions were being tested.  It would detect a test scenario by monitoring the vehicle’s:

  • Steering wheel position
  • Air pressure
  • Speed
  • Engine operation

If the software detected that a test was being conducted, it would put the car into a “safety mode” which would reduce the engine’s performance and emissions.

Once the vehicle was back on the road, the safety mode was turned off, and high levels of emissions were released.  In particular, the vehicles released “nitrogen oxide pollutants [,] at rates up to 40 times above what is allowed in the United States”.

The whole Volkswagen scandal has been described in the media as “The Diesel Dupe”.

Ford, BMW and Renault-Nissan have made statements that denied using any defeat devices in their vehicles. Some companies have simply said that they “comply with the law”, while others have not addressed the topic at all.


What Cars Were Affected?

  • All cars with EA 189 Diesel engines
  • Approximately 500,000 cars in the US (as detected by the EPA). These cars include the Audi A3, and the Volkswagen Jetta, Beetle, Golf, and Passat.
  • 1 million cars were sold with the software in Europe specifically (as revealed by Volkswagen)
  • And 11 million cars world-wide also have the software
  • The 3-litre diesel engines in some Volkswagen Porsche and Audi models have also been suspected of being equipped with the software however Volkswagen has denied these accusations.

Additionally, while the company has stated that their vehicles meet Indian emission standards, they are still updating all Indian EA 189 engines to make them “as clean as the affected cars in Europe.”

Who is Responsible?

Volkswagen initially blamed the scandal on “rogue” engineers, with its American CEO claiming that the plan was unknown at the corporate level.

Since then however, there have been media reports claiming that the defeat device was an “open” secret among Volkswagen management and execs dating back to 2006, a period when Volkswagen was trying to cost-effectively increase American sales.

A former employer/whistle-blower (now working with investigators) is said to have alerted management about the software in 2011, but received no managerial response.

Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen CEO, resigns from the company in September of 2015 after the scandal hits the media.

How Much Will it Cost?

While the total costs are still unknown, Volkswagen is facing multiple debts. The company was reported as having put away $7.3 billion to cover the costs of the scandal; however they admitted to Bloomberg that this was not enough. It was reported they later put away another additional $21 billion dollars in loans for the potential financial consequences, including (but not limited to):

  • A possible EPA fine of $37,500 for each affected vehicle (a maximum of $18 billion)
  • The cost of replacing all affected engines (or buying the vehicles back),
  • Possible legal costs, losses and settlements filed by shareholders and buyers